Rental Caskets: Your MVP

Does your firm still work with families who choose cremation for their loved ones differently than it does with those who choose burial? Do you spend the same amount of time during the arrangement conference with both families?

Rental caskets represent cost savings to families and have been around for years. As the costs of funerals have increased, families are looking for ways to save money on the funerals they arrange. Positioned properly, rental caskets can be a win-win for both you and the families you serve. At Starmark, we regularly conduct research surveys to stay ahead of trends in funeral service. Recently, we fielded a survey with funeral directors nationwide that focused on the use of rental caskets. This survey found that more than 90% of funeral directors nationwide offer one or more rental caskets at their firms.

Additionally, the most recent survey concluded that 87% of families are either curious or react positively when the concept of a rental casket is presented to them. Given this high level of interest, it is important for both family satisfaction and improved funeral service revenue that rental caskets be included in the funeral arrangement process.

Here are several effective tips to improve revenue for funeral homes and increase satisfaction for families who choose cremation.


Promote the Use of the Word “Ceremonial”

While the term “rental casket” certainly describes the product and is factually correct, the word “rental” may elicit a negative connotation among families. A much better term to use when talking about this product offering is “ceremonial casket” – as this phrase better describes its intended use.

By using “ceremonial casket,” you gently imply that a ceremony or service is a customary part of a funeral for those who choose cremation. Families may ask, “What type of ceremonies do other families hold for their loved one when cremation is chosen?” This can initiate a productive conversation about cremation ceremonies including how other families memorialize their loved ones.

Use Traditional Merchandising

Funeral professionals have been conditioned to present burial caskets using a Good-Better-Best merchandising approach. Similar to this idea, try breaking cremation merchandising down into four categories: Direct, Basic, Modest, and Full Service. This tactic is effective with families when presenting cremation packages. Educating families by explaining intuitive and friendly cremation package options is imperative. Let us quickly review how to use this methodology with families who choose cremation:

Direct: Direct/immediate cremation containers are often thought to be essential for cremation, but increasingly funeral directors offer them as an option of last resort. These cremation containers are rarely used for viewing a loved one. Traditional funeral homes that first introduce their cremation packages with a direct cremation container will decrease their profit opportunity and can expect no one from the immediate family will want to see the body again before cremation. Most families choosing cremation are confused about choices and can be led to believe the body is simply cremated without considering issues related to body handling such as storage, transportation, safety, and positive identification. Offering direct cremation first makes it harder to educate families, provide intuitive cremation-friendly options, and explain cremation package choices.

Basic: Basic cremation containers are often used as a better offering than direct/immediate types of cremation containers. Many funeral directors are discovering a great benefit from assuming that one or more immediate family members will want to identify their loved one or hold a final goodbye in a comfortable setting. Contrary to the use of direct/immediate cremation containers, funeral professionals who start their cremation offering with basic cremation containers eliminate the embarrassment and stress when families decide to have a viewing. By having families choose a basic cremation container in which the loved one will be held, transported, and cremated, funeral professionals confidently increase their value to families.

Modest: Modest cremation caskets are positioned between basic cremation containers and ceremonial caskets. These types of products are essential as they meet the economic and environmentally friendly needs of families and ought to include cremation-safe materials, combustible handles, and minimal metal. Careful pricing is required. There must be a logical price progression above the basic cremation container when offering modest cremation caskets or families will likely buy down.

Full: Ceremonial caskets provide families with the look and feel of a traditional burial or cremation casket, but families cannot believe the upgrade for such a reasonable price, creating a shock value and leaving families recognizing that they got a great deal. In addition, families who are interested in the look and feel of a traditional metal casket but want cremation as a final disposition because of the costs or environmental reasons will select a metal ceremonial casket. Funeral homes can also sell their retired ceremonial caskets as a last-use burial or cremation casket and often recover most or the entire initial investment of the ceremonial casket.

Highlight Green

In addition to cost savings, ceremonial caskets are a “green” option for families. We have all heard the buzz about sustainability and green funerals., a website dedicated to promoting environmental awareness and sustainability, offers the following facts about sustainability:

78% of consumers feel that sustainability is important.

62% of people say they “always or often” seek products to purchase because they are sustainable.

55% of consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly brands.

Each use of a ceremonial casket eliminates the need to use a traditional wood casket, which reduces the time, energy, and byproducts produced during cremation. Some casket manufacturers suggest replacing ceremonial caskets after only 10 times. Funeral professionals across North America surveyed by Starmark show that ceremonial caskets can be reused repeatedly, with an average of 29 uses over their lifetime (with 31% of our respondents saying that they use theirs 41 times or more).

For a ceremonial casket to be used that many times, funeral professionals require features that extend the life of the casket. This includes things like replaceable head panels, touch-up kits, a roller bed, and durable supports for the head and foot end lids.

Continuing the “green” theme, rental casket inserts, when produced from sources like reinforced fiberboard, offer environmentally friendly characteristics. According to the Corrugated Packaging Alliance in a Jan. 17 article on, reinforced fiberboard is collected and recycled more than any other packaging material, making it the most sustainable and environmentally friendly material available. It also burns cleanly and is an entirely renewable resource.

Consider Rental Caskets as Funeral Home Equipment

Challenge yourself to think differently about ceremonial caskets. Think of ceremonial caskets as a reusable piece of equipment – and charge accordingly. Much like the transportation charge for the use of your hearse or limo, your ceremonial casket will pay for itself through repeated use. Who knows – your accountant may even say that the equipment can be depreciated.* While we certainly do not suggest using this “equipment” terminology with families, it is a much better way to think about ceremonial caskets from a funeral professional perspective.

are confident that it will exceed the 70% mark in the next 10 years. Funeral home offerings and showrooms must also embrace this continuing trend. Emphasizing a focus on full-service cremation will benefit your firm and make the families you serve feel cherished, respected, and dignified during their hardest times. •

*Due to the complexity of tax laws, please consult a tax professional for advice.

Dan Cook is the director of national accounts for Starmark. He can be reached by phone at 267-615-5002 or by email at

Landon Elder is the director of operations for Starmark Local, LLC. He can be reached by phone at 888-366-7335 ext. 283 or by email at

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